Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Anaheim, announced Tuesday he will introduce a bill to update the state’s law against price gouging during an emergency like the coronavirus pandemic when the Legislature reconvenes.

Umberg previewed the bill with support from Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer and San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan.

The law has not been updated since 1992, an aide to Umberg said.

Umberg said the law needs to reflect more current marketing. For instance, the law prevents established sellers from increasing prices by more than 10% during a state of emergency, but is silent on new sellers.

“Exploiting the public’s fear and panic is not a defense to engaging in criminal activity,” Spitzer said. “Existing law left a loophole that allowed opportunists to take advantage of a crisis and overcharge customers for a product just because they had never sold that product before.

“This important legislation closes that loophole and ensures that hose who shamelessly exploit people’s vulnerabilities during a time of emergency are prosecuted. In this case we do not reward entrepreneurship.”

Stephan agreed.

“This bill will help close loopholes that allow greedy actors to escape accountability and ensures that California businesses don’t charge abusive prices for health and consumer essentials during this national emergency,” Stephan said.

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